Tourism: An easy way out for African economies
“Tourism has become the easy way out for African economies. When we are stuck with our fiscal budgets the most targeted sector the easy one is tourism. It is the painkiller for any economy before you start looking at medium to long term prescriptions to economic recovery. The lowest hanging fruit for any nation is tourism.”
This was said by Zimbabwean Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi at a press briefing ahead of Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo 2015, which was held in Harare from June18 to 20.
This year’s expo, the 8th edition, saw the introduction of the ministerial roundtables.
This is a requirement by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to pitch Travel and International Expo to a policy level where industry and other stakeholders can interrogate tourism ministers on policy.
The theme for the ministerial round table was ‘Tourism Africa’s Sleeping Giant Towards Double Digit Market Share by 2020.’
Minister Mzembi said that it comes in the background of Africa’s stunted growth in global tourism with market share at 5% for both arrivals and foreign currency revenue.
“We desire in this roundtable session to interrogate those factors that are standing and inhibiting the growth of market share by Africa,” said Mzembi.
The session dealt with thematic areas that include, travel facilitation, Brand Africa, capacity building and tourism products by the tourism ministers from the region.
Under travel facilitation, the session deliberated on destinations, accessibility and connecting.
“We are referring to how Africa is accessed, why African airlines are not viable, how can they be made viable and available?” explained Mzembi.
Brand Africa touched on the burden of infirmities in Africa and the continent’s inability to locate them specifically where they are taking place and the contagion effects that they are having on other destinations.
Minister Mzembi said Ebola and its impact on travel was a good example. He said that Zimbabwe suffered a setback even after successfully positioning itself as a Meeting Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions Markets after the UNWTO 20th Session General Assembly.
“We suffered a setback through Ebola through the world and its inability to locate Ebola then as where it was having or being derived from and our inability to restrict it in the mindset of the international consuming travelling public to restrict it to where it was actually taking place and in fact the international travelling public thought Africa was one country,” he said.
The meeting also discussed poverty and its implications on Africa.
“The image that continues to be shown in the global media about poverty in Africa and what psychological impact they may have on decisions by the travelling public on coming to Africa. The issue is around shared vision.”
“Do we have a shared vision as a continent on tourism? Do we collectively understand its impact in terms of it being a US$7 trillion GDP economy globally? Can we see a future where we can begin a double digit market share?” asked Mzembi.
He said that what is simply needed to be done is to be attractive. Peace and stability were also discussed.
Mzembi said that the peace was Zimbabwe’s number one dividend.
“It doesn’t matter how attractive your destination may be. If it is located in a war zone people won’t visit. If it is located in a destination that communicates conflict people still won’t visit.”
Capacity building and service culture also came under examination.
“We will interrogate standards and competitive products offerings brought in the mindset of the international consuming public that Africa actually can drive standards,” said Mzembi.
Participants tackled tourism products, product development and diversification, packing and integrated marketing and mitigation of seasonality.
Minister Mzembi further said that he submitted to the 100th UNWTO Executive Council in Croatia a fortnight ago that Africa ordinarily should not suffer from seasonality products.
He suggested for the mitigation of seasonality through regional packaging.
Policy consistency and competitiveness were tackled as well as closing the infrastructure gap, and implementation of open sky policies.
Africa is a signatory of Yamoussoukro Declaration which grants open skies access to Africa and to the international travelling public.
The aspects around taxation and pricing policies were also interrogated.
The round table was held in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the University of Zimbabwe.
There was a big culinary expo on the sidelines where different countries and specialty restaurants showcased their services.
The Culinary Expo was aimed at showcasing specific sets of cooking traditions and practices, often associated with a specific culture or region.
The Expo is in its 2nd year of the repositioned Sanganai/Hlanganani.
At least 105 buyers participated in the tourism expo while 27 international media personnel will covered the event.
Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the organizers of Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo 2015 were the overall winners of the Destination Marketing of 2015 Routes Marketing Award during the Networking Evening in the Kingdom of Bahrain on Monday 1 June 2015.